In four successive away games following their stirring victory over Chelsea, Aston Villa performed mundanely in drawing twice, losing once and making Carling Cup progress on penalties. Three weeks on, the international managers in whom Martin O'Neill is about to entrust many of his players will be hoping there is a more pronounced kick-on following another rousing Villa Park occasion.
Five goals, five different scorers and a reclaimed fifth spot made it a highly satisfying afternoon, not least for some of those now hoping to dazzle more with their countries than they did during the quartet of domestic trips. No one offered greater food for thought in this area than James Milner, whose rich contribution to the latest humiliation of Bolton Wanderers will make happy DVD viewing some time this week for Fabio Capello.
"James would be a player Capello would really enjoy having because he's prepared to put the work in and he's improving in ability," O'Neill said. "One of the great aspects of his game is that, not only does he do the work for you and enthuse about that, but he never wants to miss a minute. James' last excursion in the England team was playing at left-back. I haven't played him there but he and Ashley Young interchange when they feel it's right to. I feel he could move to central midfield because he is not concerned about receiving the ball under pressure, so at some stage this season, he'll play in there for us."
Milner made two goals and scored another, although his finish for number four only partly erased the embarrassment of his feeble saved penalty. He, among others, had already failed from the spot this season but, at 23, he appears to have a big England future – if not in shoot-outs.
This was also a success story for fellow goalscorers Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and, in particular, John Carew who made Remembrance Day weekend one to forget for Gary Cahill and Zat Knight. Their limp defending swallowed up what hope their side were given on the stroke of half-time by Johan Elmander's first League goal since the corresponding game last December. Bolton have now conceded 13 in three harrowing games and the first three here were a nightmare for their manager Gary Megson who was also furious that Steve Sidwell and then Milner fastened unchallenged on to rebounds after the penalty brought one of several fine saves from Jussi Jaaskelainen. "We were nowhere near the standards you would expect in the Premiership," he said. "That's as bad as we've played this season, if not for a couple of years."
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Luke Young, Cuellar, Dunne, Warnock; Milner (Delfouneso, 82), Reo-Coker (Delph, 86), Sidwell (Gardner, 86), Ashley Young; Carew, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Albrighton, Shorey, Clark.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Ricketts (Steinsson, 69), Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Muamba; Chung-Yong, Cohen (Elmander, 29), Taylor, Gardner; Kevin Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Mark Davies, Klasnic, Basham, Andy O'Brien.
Referee: M Clattenburg.
Booked: Aston Villa: Gardner. Bolton: Cohen, Cahill, Kevin Davies, Robinson.
Man of the match: Carew.